Last week a Swansea university student from Pontypridd was convicted of ‘a racially-aggravated public order offense‘ for making an offense comment on twitter about footballer Fabrice Muamba. The student was convicted and sentenced to 56 days in jail.
There are two disturbing elements to this case.
First, it was not reported on the radio news what the offensive comments were, other than they were deemed by the court to be racist. I have also looked on news sites for the comments but they are not reproduced.
So all we know is that someone was sent to jail for writing something deemed racially offensive by the courts. Not knowing what the courts consider offensive keeps us all ignorant and in fear. Which brings me to my second concern – the punishment.
Racism is a product of ignorance and fear (two qualities that the human species have in abundance). Is sticking the student in jail for 56 days going to enlighten him and make a better, safer society for all? No chance. Much better to get racists to re-examine their beliefs and values and nurture more positive values in themselves and others.
In short, you don’t cure ignorance and fear through corporal punishment (and incarceration is a type of corporal punishment). You don’t cure ignorance and fear by concealing the words that the court found offensive and punishable.
The stupidity of the racist comments are mirrored by the stupidity of the court’s reaction. Ignorance and fear, the breeding grounds of racism have been increased, not diminished.
This case was an ideal opportunity for an open and honest public debate about racism and language deemed to be offensive, and the beliefs that foster those sentiments.
Instead, the UK media and justice system used it to instill further ignorance and fear, revealing the true nature of the UK justice. Its methods of social control compound ignorance and fear – in contradistinction to an open, tolerant, democratic society.